Porto will travel to Arouca on Monday in search of three points to revive their title challenge, as they currently lag behind the top two teams in Portugal.
Arouca, on the other hand, will be aiming for their fourth consecutive victory, having scored nine goals in their last three matches.
Last week, Porto dropped points at home against Rio Ave, settling for a goalless draw after having two goals disallowed and a penalty overturned by VAR. This allowed Sporting CP and Benfica to maintain their lead in the Primeira Liga.
Although Porto’s unbeaten streak extended to eight games in all competitions, they remain in third place, trailing Benfica by six points and Sporting by four.
In the midweek Taca de Portugal quarter-final match against Santa Clara, the game was abandoned due to heavy rain, leading to a rescheduling at the end of February.
This adds to Porto’s already congested schedule, as they will also resume their Champions League campaign later this month with a last-16 clash against Arsenal.
However, Porto’s focus now turns back to the league, where they have won seven out of ten away matches so far.
They have also remained undefeated in their last seven Primeira Liga meetings with Arouca since 2016, outscoring them by a margin of 19-2. Therefore, Porto is considered the favorite to win.
Nevertheless, Porto might face a challenge from their modest neighbors. In the reverse fixture in September, Arouca held Porto to a 1-1 draw at Estadio Do Dragao, with Evanilson equalizing in stoppage time after Cristo Gonzalez opened the scoring.
Arouca has been performing well in the Primeira Liga, currently sitting seventh with three consecutive wins. Their most recent victory was a 2-1 win over Portimonense, with Rafa Mujica and Matias Rocha finding the net.
Now, Arouca faces the challenge of hosting Porto at Estadio Municipal de Arouca, where they have won only three out of ten home matches in the Primeira Liga while conceding more than a goal per game.
Arouca Primeira Liga form:
W L L W W W
Arouca form (all competitions):
L L L W W W
Porto Primeira Liga form:
W D W W W D
Porto form (all competitions):
D W W W W D
Porto’s star striker Mehdi Taremi may return to the squad after Iran’s exit from the Asian Cup. However, full-back Zaidu Sanusi is still away with Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations and will not be available.
Long-term absentee Ivan Marcano is also ruled out, but midfielder Marko Grujic may recover from a muscular problem and participate in Monday’s game.
Evanilson is Porto’s top scorer in the league this season with eight goals, while Rafa Mujica leads Arouca with 12 goals. They will both feature in the match, alongside Cristo Gonzalez and Jason.
Arouca will be without Brazilian duo Quaresma and Vitinho due to injury, and January signing Yanis Hamache is also dealing with a muscular issue.
Arouca possible starting lineup:
Esgaio, Bambu, Rocha, Weverson;
Jason, Gonzalez, Sylla;
Porto possible starting lineup:
Mario, Cardoso, Pepe, Wendell;
Conceicao, Pepe, Galeno;
Prediction: Arouca 1-2 Porto
While Arouca has proven to be a strong opponent, Porto has a history of defeating their regional rivals and will be motivated to bounce back from recent setbacks. A narrow away win is the likely outcome.